As Israel and America are being pulled apart by the inexorable forces of history, the new Israeli elections are slated to be among the most consequential in Israel’s history
When I used to drive American-made Vietnam vintage REO trucks for the IDF, they wouldn’t go into gear unless you popped them first into neutral, revved the motor to re-sync it and then selected the new gear. This double-clutching was tedious in the mountainous dirt tracks of the Judean desert since gears had to be shifted about ten times per minute, but it was also absolutely necessary if you wanted to avoid killing the tranny miles from help in the 110F heat.
Israel is the same way. The double-clutch April-October election is tedious and very expensive, but it seems that it is required to get the Israeli people and the Israeli government in sync for what would appear to be a near future full of momentous decisions.
Since antiquity, Israel had to survive by cultivating close relationships with the superpowers of the day, making itself useful, always striving to have something to offer in exchange for superpower protection, always trying to guess when to jump ship from the superpower of yesterday to the superpower of tomorrow.
Poor guesses invariably proved to be disastrous, good ones meant survival. The kingdoms of Israel and Judea fell to the Assyrians and the Babylonians because they misread the superpower map. Israel, the bigger of the two, thought that it could form an alliance with some other little kingdoms in the area of what today is Jordan and Syria and fend off the demands of the superpower of the seventh century BC Assyria for taxes and levies. This was an existential mistake, one for which the ten tribes paid with exile and oblivion.
A century later, Judea made a different mistake. Closely aligned with Egypt for many centuries, Judean nobility and the kings from the House of David failed to listen to Jeremiah the prophet, himself of the priestly caste and a member of the nobility, when he called Egypt a “cane of broken reeds” and urged the realignment of interests towards the newly ascendant superpower, Babylon. The endgame, however, was the same: conquest, the burning down of the temple, exile. The only reason I am writing these lines as a Jew and an Israeli is that Babylon itself was not to last. Replaced by Persia, it disappeared from the world map, while the tiny and insignificant kingdom it had conquered and whose cultural treasures it had plundered managed to survive to this very day at the same place where it had always been.
Later yet, towards the end of the first millennium BC, the Maccabees correctly estimated that the Hellenistic empires left behind by Alexander the Great were greatly weakened by newly ascendant Rome and thus rebellion and the reestablishment of independence was possible. Alas, their descendants in 70 AD misjudged Rome’s might and determination to make an example of any province that embarked on the path of rebellion.
In modern times, Jews residing in the Ottoman province of Palestine once again guessed right when in 1918 they allied themselves with the British against the Turks, securing for themselves the Balfour Declaration and forcing Britain’s reluctant leadership to acknowledge that the future of “Palestine” must include some sort of Jewish sovereignty over parts of it.
After the War of Independence Israel relied on its alliance with Britain and France, offering its services in their disastrous 1956 campaign to recover the Suez Canal from Gamal Abdel Nasser who had nationalized it earlier. The fecklessness and weakness of these European has-beens in that campaign showed Israel that it needed to try its luck elsewhere, in the lap of one of the two warring superpowers: America and the USSR. The Israeli political system and natural tendencies were much more aligned with communist Russia than capitalist America and Israel made an honest bid to get itself in the Russian sphere of influence. The Russians wobbled a bit, but after the glorious Israeli victory in the 1967 Six Day War they made the final decision to side with the Arab states and severed all diplomatic ties with Israel.
That move by Russia, as well as Israel’s proven military and intelligence gathering prowess, made Israel an invaluable American ally in the Cold War, an alliance that enjoyed wall to wall bipartisan support in America and in Israel. Until now.
A slew of recent developments is inexorably leading to a single conclusion: it’s time for Israel to realign its interests again. Israel and America are getting a divorce. It is, as divorces go, a very amicable one, a mutually agreed upon parting of the ways without acrimony and even with the exchange of gifts, but a divorce it is nonetheless.
The reasons for this, as is always the case, are legion. American Jewry, a mainstay of the Israeli-American alliance, is rapidly losing both its internal influence in America and its interest in Israel. These two are related, of course because much of the influence that American Jews used to have derived from the fact that they had a common purpose, a unifying principle: their support for Israel. This support, was once one of the few truly bipartisan issues in American politics. Once that bipartisanship fell prey to the Islamization of the Democratic Party, American Jews had to chose: leave the Democrats or leave Israel. They chose the latter.
On the global stage, there is no reason for America and Israel to be especially close allies. Israel’s trading partners are mostly in Europe, in India, and in the Far East, but recently also in South America and in Africa. Israel, is still of course, a major buyer of American military hardware, but so are many other countries that do not enjoy a particularly close relationship with America.
Finally, the one thing that the newly hatched manifestations of the two major American parties agree on is that America should not be a true superpower; a guarantor of world peace, a world leader through thick and thin. The rationale for that is, of course, diametrically different between the two parties with the Democrats supporting globalism and MAGA Republicans supporting nationalist isolationism, but the end result is the same: America is withdrawing from the world stage.
As part of the divorce, America under the leadership of president Trump is bestowing upon Israel an extremely generous separation package. In it are already found the embassy move to Jerusalem, the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and a few F-35 fighter jets. Yet to come is the “Deal of the Century” peace plan, to be announced after the new Israeli government is formed (fingers crossed) in November. This deal will involve the pathway for Israeli annexation of those areas in Judea and Samaria that are now under full Israeli control and in which many tens of thousands of Israelis already reside.
The new Israeli government will have to decide how to act with regards to this possible annexation, but the real test will be Iran. Trump is on the same page with his supporters when it comes to their isolationist tendencies, but he knows that first he has to disentangle the US from Iran and North Korea. The North Korean part is much easier because once they begin to believe that regime change by the US is not in the offing and that as long as they don’t engage in provocations they can keep on keeping on, they will cease to be a problem, which is what is already happening.
Iran is another matter. Possessed of an eschatological worldview, it needs to keep pushing the boundaries of its influence, stirring trouble in a region of the world that can take no more of it. One way or another, Trump will deal with the mullahs and this can get very dicey for Israel, since any Iranian reaction will involve attacking Israel via its proxies in Lebanon and in Gaza. It is no coincidence that the Israeli Air Force has just concluded a massive exercise war-gaming a regional conflict, an exercise that involved every asset and every branch of the service, including the newly arrived F-35s.
The new Israeli government will have to decide on the annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria, fight a major regional war, and realign Israel’s foreign policy center of gravity away from America and towards a “basket” of countries like India, Brazil, and China. These momentous tasks, these life or death decisions can only be made by a government that enjoys a solid and indisputable mandate from its people. That is why we needed the double clutch. Let’s hope it works.
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